Bee loss be bad this year

In the united states, bee keepers lose a certain number of colonies over the winter. This is normal, but bee keepers maintain that losses of about 15 percent or less are “acceptable.” I don’t know what the logical or empirical basis for that number is, however.

Yesterday, the results of a report that surveys bee keepers in the US came out, and the total loss rate over the 2012/2013 winter was 31.1%. That’s a lot more than last year’s loss rate, but within the range of variation of loss over the last few years, as shown on this graph provided by “bee informed”:

Honey bee colony loss rate.

Honey bee colony loss rate.

This is not exactly the same thing as Colony Collapse Disorder, but overwintering loss is a different measure than overall colony loss. (It’s all related of course.)

The reason why this is important is that many crops rely on these honey bees for pollination.

The report cited here is preliminary, and there will be a more detailed version available in the near future.

Comments

  1. #1 sailor
    May 13, 2013

    “This is not exactly the same thing as Colony Collapse Disorder, but overwintering loss is a different measure than overall colony loss. (It’s all related of course.)”
    How is that related. Does not seem so to me. Overwintering losses must have been happening long before colony collapse. There ar also the varroa mites another unrelated but very real problem..

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    May 13, 2013

    Colony collapse disorder seems to have been happening for a very long time. Since we are not entirely sure of the best way to define CCD or to explain it, I’m reluctant to suggest a clear link. But I imagine the health of a hive prior to over-wintering would impact success in over-wintering.

    My vagueness in that statement was very intentional!

  3. #3 sailor
    May 13, 2013

    Well I know almost nothing about bees, but my partner keeps a few hives. We have never had colony collapse disorder, but sometimes loose a hive over winter, sometimes for no obvious reason.

  4. #4 proximity1
    May 14, 2013

    “The reason why this is important is that many crops rely on these honey bees for pollination. ”

    I’m glad that it’s merely the potential loss of commercial crops. I was afraid it might have concerned something quite serious such as eco-system viability, for example.

    Don’t worry. We don’t need natural crops. Synthetic nutrition will do, and one doesn’t need bees for that–does one? I think “science” will come to our rescue and everything will be “fine”. How do I know this? Easy, I have read the “Respectful Insolence” blog recently and, there, clearly, the readers see nothing to be concerned about.

    Nature got along for many millions of years without bees. Without humans, too, come to think of it.

    As Franklin P. Adams quipped, “Christmas is over and business is business” –to which I add, and this is America, after all, ergo, it’s all about the bottom-line of the income-statement.

    Bees, shmees.

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    May 14, 2013

    Well, these honey bees are not part of the natural environment at all. They are tools of agriculture to produce honey and to pollinate plants that are also not part of the natural environment where they grow. Having said that, what if it was discovered that aliens had stolen all the farming equipment so farmers could no longer produce food? I think saying that this would be a problem … because of all the mass starvation and stuff … would be valid.

    That honey bees are also canaries (of the environment) is also true.

  6. #6 proximity1
    May 15, 2013

    RE:

    “Having said that, what if it was discovered that aliens had stolen all the farming equipment so farmers could no longer produce food?”

    having said that, I return your question this way:

    What if “aliens” came, pollinated those non-natural crops we depend on for our nutrition, and, through our own bloody-minded stupidity, we anihilated the pollinating aliens who’d been doing so much of (though, yes, not all of ) the crop pollination?

    Humans needn’t wait for outlandish possibilities for worldwide catastrophe. Making that is our species’ specialty.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    May 15, 2013

    We would probably do that.